School Funding Services

September 13, 2009

Timing Your School Promotion to Optimize Success

Filed under: Marketing,Promotion,school — House @ 4:22 am

Each year school marketers are challenged with scheduling the timing and frequency of promotions that will increase their chances of reaching educators at just the right time to buy their products. While it is difficult to cut all promotional timing from the same cloth, there are some time-tested strategies that education marketers can employ to optimize success.

School Budget Cycles

First let’s talk about the three major time periods in the school market. They are linked to established buying cycles that are usually put into three distinct seasons.

Fall (August – November) – As the new school year begins, teachers often look for materials that will help them support their lesson plans. It is important that education companies are prominent in teachers’ minds as they plan out their school year. In my personal experience of selling educational video and software products, this was a critical time to boost “on-approval” orders to create a healthy sales pipeline for the school year.
Winter (January – March) – This is a time of year when several key buying trends take place. School budgets are being prepared for school board approval, teachers are planning second-half activities, and leftover money is being reviewed. Clearly, this is an important time to be in front of your customers to take advantage of the upcoming end-of-year spending as well as be included in the following fiscal year’s spending plans.
Spring (April – June) – During this period, schools often distribute leftover money for administrators and teachers to spend on supplemental materials and replacement items. In fact, April and May are typically the two busiest months of the year for teachers to submit purchase requests. Because many buying decisions are often made in the spring, this is a great time for marketers to promote year-end specials. Marketers with the right product mix can really benefit from increased marketing output during this all-important spending period.
Timing Your Promotions With School Open and Close Dates

Marketers should consider timing direct mail drop dates with actual school start dates. This will prevent promotions from being in the first-day pile if mailed too early, as well as arriving several weeks late and missing important sales opportunities. Marketers also want to be aware of school closing dates to make sure they time spring promotions appropriately and take full advantage of the important spring buying season. End-of-school-year specials can also be effective since many schools must spend leftover money by the end of their fiscal year. School open/close date information is readily available from school list providers and can easily be coded to make staggering drop dates easy for your mail house to execute.

Synchronizing Your E-Mail Campaigns With Your Direct Mail to Optimize
Response Rates

It’s been well established that marketers can significantly increase response rates by employing a multi-channel marketing approach. By highlighting special offers, new products, and increasing awareness of your forthcoming catalog in an e-mail message, you can pique the interest of potential customers to be on the lookout for your promotion piece. This approach can be used to customize incentives to various customer segments. For example, e-mail a coupon for a free gift to your best customers or offer prospects a special discount for first-time orders. You can also follow up with a second e-mail reminder about an offer deadline or promote a last-minute special.

Special Timing Opportunities

A process that often pays dividends for school marketers is to look for products that link to specific holidays and known curriculum events. Examples of these are Veterans Day, Black History Month, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Columbus Day, and Election Day. Developing targeted promotions that tie to these specific holidays will likely lift response rates if timed properly.

School Marketing During the Summer?

Many marketers aren’t aware that they can reach educators at home over the summer via direct mail. The summer provides a great opportunity to promote a wide range of products before the school year begins and when teachers have time to read about and review new products. Educators at home lists that target educators by job function, grade level, and even the type of products they have purchased in the past are readily available. Also, many district administrators work during the summer months. So if you sell your product to district-level personnel, the July/August time frame can be a great time to send special promotions. As with any promotional campaign, individual marketers need to test timing and offers and make future decisions based on their specific results. The better marketers are at tracking their direct mail results, the better they will be at eliminating waste and building upon their success.

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